Our fire-pit turkeys are so moist and tender…

fall-off-the-bone delish!

Our buried fire-pit turkeys draw us together every Thanksgiving. We wait for the first nibbles like vultures, as the succulent turkeys are pulled from the ashes. This is well before they ever get to the kitchen! Oh yeah. “Finger-lick’n” good!

A fun family tradition

Different methods of buried, fire-pit turkeys have evolved over the years. Many RV campers and off-road enthusiasts do this. In fact, that is how our family started our back-yard tradition, for Thanksgiving dinners.

These fire-pit turkeys come out so moist and tender. They remind us of the Hawaiian Islands, where they serve their succulent roast pork, from fire pits, at their luau feasts.

Since very little moisture evaporates during pit-cooking, the meat is somewhat steamed, therefore moist and tender throughout and falls from the bones. There’s more than enough of the tasty, seasoned, juices for lots of delicious gravy too. More, please!

Tip: Although we love our deep-fried turkeys, this method is healthier and we can cook larger turkeys.

Slow-roasted turkeys without the oven… how we do it, year after year.

Tip: Most likely you will have no left-over pit turkey, so cook it’s best to cook an extra turkey. Otherwise… invite fewer people, if you want any turkey to eat with left-over sides.

Tip: One year, we also roasted a traditional turkey in the oven. The pit turkey was gone. The traditional one was un-carved. Needless to say, we had a lot of left-over turkey that year.

Needed supplies and ingredients

  • Shovels
  • 6 large bags of charcoal or equivalent. (Less needed for 1 turkey.)
  • Charcoal lighter fluid and matches
  • 2, 17-pound turkeys Tip: For best timing results have similar turkey weights.
  • Butter and desired seasonings
  • 6 disposable aluminum turkey roasting pans. (3 pans for each turkey.)
  • Heavy duty aluminum foil
  • Heavy gauge wire and wire cutters
  • Hot pad holders or heavy work gloves

Here’s what to do

First locate a safe area away from the main gathering of your group’s activities. Best locations are away from fire-hazards, shrubs and low-hanging trees. Keep children and pets away from the fire-pit area.

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Next, grab your shovels and dig a large hole approximately 3′ deep, by 2′ wide and 4′ long. Big enough to accommodate your wrapped turkeys with extra space between and around them for coals.


Spread 6 large bags of charcoal into the pit and along one side the pit. Spray the coals with the charcoal lighter. Stand back a safe distance and light the coals. Let coals burn until they are red hot and coated with white ash. Approximately, an hour.

Tip: If the coals are not white-hot, your turkeys may not cook entirely. Been there. Done that. Turn on the oven…

Clean and prepare the turkeys. Remove the neck and giblets. Keep drumsticks tied together. Butter and season the skin, but do not stuff the cavities. No need for “pop-up” timer inserts.

Next, place turkeys in double aluminum roasting pans and cover with single pans, like lids. Attach the top to bottom of pans on all sides, with tight rings of heavy wire. Wrap the turkey containers in heavy duty aluminum foil, to prevent dirt from entering the containers. Finally, attach heavy wire around each container, creating a loop or handle, for easier lifting to and from hot coals.

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Meanwhile, down in the fire pit.

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Spread out the white-hot coals in the pit. Place the foil-wrapped turkeys on top of the coals in the pit, leaving room between them for more hot coals. Next, shovel the hot coals from the upper side of the pit, covering the turkeys. Then carefully shovel the excess dirt on top of the coals.

Cook for approximately 5 hours.


Finally, carefully shovel off the dirt and coals, trying not to cut through the aluminum casings. When possible, grab the gloves and lift each container from the pit. Try not to tilt the pans too much, preventing the juices from leaking out.

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Tip: Consider using the same location in the future. It makes it easier to dig the pit again next year!

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Moist and so Juicy! Soon to be GONE.

Tip: Although still succulent, when covering the containers with coals, be careful not to crush the pan tops to prevent possible scorching of the meat. (see above) Also, mix in some dirt as a slight buffer. Possibly use 2 pans to cover the tops instead of one. We never have had to.


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